Well, how did you proclaim the love that Christ Jesus this past week? How were you one of Christ’s disciples -- in your workplace, in your retirement, at home, or on the road? How did you share Christ’s love -- for you, for us, for this whole world -- since last Sunday? We are God’s agents.
Take a second: write it down or just think quietly to yourself, how did you share Christ’s love this past week?
I have to tell you, and I don’t tell you enough, but...I look at you, and I see Christ! I’m not saying you’re my Lord and Savior. But you, sisters and brothers, carry Christ in your faces, in your bodies, in your eyes, in your hands and feet.
Don’t ever, ever forget that. We are filled to the brim with God. We are made in God’s image, sustained with Christ’s forgiveness, and breathed into by the Holy Spirit -- you are and you have been the face of Christ for this world, this past week!
Through your kindness, generosity, forgiveness, peace -- you share Christ with everyone and everything you encounter!
Another way of saying that is in our letter from Ephesians today: “Christ dwells in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”
The early Christians in Ephesus needed to hear that...because they had no external signs of the Christian Church. Unlike today they had no evidence there was a church -- no steeples, no Gothic seminaries, no Christian art, no billboards or publishing houses...The Roman Empire was the subject of all the external signs.
The Empire had its great cathedrals build to the gods. They had mighty war ships in their harbors, imperial guards on every corner, they had statues to gods and humans that were nearly gods -- athletes, scholars, senators. Caesar was called the “Son of God”. Then -- you have to understand -- there were no external signs of Christ’s church.
And many of the great Christian leaders were gone. The church existed then with no external signs. In other words, the church had to exist in their hearts and in their tiny, underground communities. For them to receive a letter as encouraging and as prayerful and as joyful as this...was like the sun rising after a cold, dark night.
“Be strengthened in your inner being, with power through God’s spirit, that Christ may dwell [not in temples and stadiums or even churches, no, that Christ may dwell] in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” As one scholar commented, “When this is accomplished -- when Christ dwells in our hearts through faith as we are being rooted and grounded in love -- we have the whole Christian life.” (NIB, 417)
Maybe you didn’t have enough time earlier when I asked you to consider the ways you shared the love of Christ this past week. Praise God! And keep it up -- with humility and joy. This passage is continued encouragement, a reminder of where you get that strength to share.
But maybe you felt a little unprepared to respond to that question? “Me? Share the Good News, proclaim the love and forgiveness of Christ? Isn’t that, like, the pastor’s job? Or some church professional’s job?... “I’m the one that needs to hear it! I’ve got nothing to share: it’s been a crappy week! I feel pretty empty.”
Or, “if I did anything good -- if I shared any kind of good with my life this week, it was just common sense, it’s what we do, right? Nothing special, nothing holy.”
I want to, Ephesians wants to, nip that in the bud...and name God’s creative and redeeming work into all we say and do. This life we share, is deeply infused with the love of the Divine, with Christ’s real presence!
We at church are about the work of naming God's ongoing creative and redeeming work in the everyday lives of people and the earth itself. A mother picking up her child from school: we name God in that. A freshly picked crate of strawberries: we name God in that. A beer after work among construction workers: name God in that! The embrace of a child... The loss of a pet -- it’s not just in the good, sweet stuff -- we name God in all things because God is present and loving in all. The list is as diverse as it is endless.
We’re about to sing “Thine the Amen”. This is a sort of “stream of consciousness” lyrical style, written by Herb Brokering in the 1980’s. I know some of you have met Herb Brokering. He died in 2009 back in Minnesota at age 83.
From the Lutheran radio program Grace Matters:
The Rev. Dr. Herbert Brokering has been called the “Leonardo DaVinci of the Prairies.” Gifted with extraordinary creativity, the Lutheran pastor, author, lyricist, hymn writer and peace activist has spent his life finding new ways to minister to the holistic health of all God’s people. ...
In a reflection of his favorite biblical image, “In him all things hold together,” Dr. Brokering has devoted his life to strengthening connections between people and God, and between God’s people, person to person and country to country.
My two favorite verses:
2. Thine the life
Thine the promise
let there be
Thine the vision
Thine the tree
all the earth
on bended knee
Gone the nailing
gone the railing
gone the pleading
gone the cry
Gone the sighing
gone the dying
what was loss
3. Thine the truly
Thine the yes
Thine the table
we the guest
Thine the mercy
all from Thee
Thine the glory
yet to be
Then the ringing
and the singing
then the end
of all the war
Thine the living
Thine the loving
I wanted to share that with you before we sing it, because from what I can gather, Brokering embodied this deep and joyous praise of God through all of life and even in death. And wrapped up in our praise of God is a recognition that Christ dwells with us, in all that we do. As Colossians puts it, and as Brokering loved to repeat, “In Christ all things hold together.”
You are held together by Christ, and you share that “held-togetherness” in all your words and actions. Thank you.
And may Christ continue to dwell deeply in your hearts through faith, as you continue to be rooted and grounded in love. AMEN.